Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

The U.S. is a silent country

Downtown Sao Paulo, the third largest city in the world.

Let me explain what I mean by the United States being a silent country. 

I live near a major highway but I do not hear any kind of noise during the night. There are millions of people living in the DC suburbs, I live in a townhome community with a lot of houses and families and I live near the capital of the world’s most powerful country (is it still? :)). Why’s that?

Most neighborhoods in America are very quiet, partially due to the urban sprawl. The fact that builders have to preserve green areas and there are restrictions on land use, space between houses and conditional use permits make most residential areas very quiet at night.  Additionally, there are sound barriers and walls between residential communties and major highways.

Luckily, Americans seem to respect the after 10 PM noise restriction and you don’t hear loud music or parties on many residential areas. I am not sure about inner city USA, since I do not have any experience living there, and I am sure the picture is not as rosy as I am describing in here.

Nonetheless, I am talking about the suburbs of Washington DC, the MD and VA neigborhoods. Things get very quiet and dark (the lighting poles are far and few between and the lights are dim).

Add to that that most Americans, like Northern Europeans, go to bed earlier than in Latin countries. Even though this silence can get boring, it makes for a very sound night’s sleep. 

Another factor that contributes to the silence: the fact that most houses in the USA have heating and air conditioning systems, which make all windows and doors shut, thus isolating street noises.

In a sharp contrast, Brazil is a noisy country (unless you are in the countryside). Cities are bustling with noise. Cars honk their horns, steet vendors shout out their merchandise, people yell each other’s name, people speak very loudy, trafic noises come from every open window or door, music is played loudly and restaurants and bars stay open umtil the wee hours.

Sounds like hell, doesn’t it? But you get used to it. There is a feeling of being alive there. It is hard to get depressed when you see people in the streets and human noise around you.  As for sleeping, it depends where you are (forget about silence at night if you rent a beach apartment in a popular beach town). If you live in a high rise you may hear the sounds of early morning traffic, if you live in a house you will also hear the sounds of traffic and sometimes street vendors. And yes, the birds. The birds chirp away every morning in Brazil, since it is always Spring there!

Try to talk on a restaurant in Brazil? Everybody is talking at the same time,  just like the Italians! Houses were built very close to each other for centuries (a Portuguese tradition, unnecessary in a big country like Brazil with lots of land- and maybe somereal estate greed?) and still are.

One of the reasons is that Brazilians hate living far from downtown. They hate commutes. They want to be near the action. They want to be near the shops and the grocery store and the pharmacy and the bars. Walking distance preferably. Brazilians, like many latin coutnries, are about people. People need people. They like to talk, they like to party, they like to meet people they know. So everyone lives near each other. 

Most Brazilians live in apartment buildings, some very tall. Apartments are safer and allow them to live near downtown. If they were to live in a house, they would have to travel further to work.  Cars and gasoline are expensive in Brasil, and the buses are sometimes dangerous (citites like Rio and Sao Paulo) or very packed and uncomfortable.

I think I prefer the silence than the noise. I guess it is easier to create noise when it is silent than make exterior noise disappear. My husband and I have different perspectives about the ideal place to live. He prefers the big house with lots of land in a quiet and “peaceful” neighborhod. He does not mind the opressive silence and the long commutes.  He likes the idea of a  place where you cannot see the neighbors and you can park all your cars and boats and RV’s or whatever else you have.  A place where you have to get in the car and drive at least 15 minutes to buy a carton of milk. A place where you can blast your music loud and walked naked on your backyard if you wish 🙂

Myself, on the other hand, would go nuts living in an isolated house in the middle of nowhere. I would probably be so depressed that it would take months for someone to find my dead body. I do not wish to drive one hour to and from work. I do not need so much, excuse me, garbage. I am happy with one car or two (if we are a couple). I don’t need a humungous house. I like to see people, I also like to be near shops and malls and places where people congregate, just like my Brazilian counterparts. When I see real estate ads that advertise a house as being in a “tranquil setting”,  “peaceful and private”, it gives me the creeps!

 But I certainly love sleeping with no noise. I am a light sleeper and the drop of a feather can wake me up 🙂  So, like everything in life, not too much, not too little.


September 24, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 2 Comments

Should we give money to beggars?

There is a very busy intersection near my work where I sometimes find myself waiting for a few minutes for the light to go green. Invariably there is a beggar (is that a politically correct word, like homeless? Is bum too offensive?) standing in the corner, with a sign of some sort.  It is always a new beggar. They vary in age, race and gender.  When I am caught on the red light, he or she walks by me, and I always feel uneasy. Should I give him some money? Should I give him a quarter? One dollar? Five dollars? Ten dollars so he or she can buy a meal?

I have heard people say that we should not give them anything, since the money will be used for alcholol or drugs. I also hear people say they should find a job, damn it! Some do look quite healthy and capable of working, and we all know there are plenty of jobs that not many people want to perform.  I imagine some of these homeless prefer to get by with some money donated on the streets (after all, this is the country of fundraising, isn’t it? There is always a charity asking for money, why can’t the homeless work independently for their own charitable goals: himself? :)), instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen in a fast food joint or doing some heavy lifting.

Nonetheless, my sensitive liberal side makes me ask: aren’t these beggars unable to work? Haven’t they been affected by the bad economy? Do they have a mental illness that prevents them from holding a job (many do)? Haven’t they lost their job and their health insurance and do not have anyone in the whole entire world to take them in? Aren’t they being discriminated by employers due to this or that? Do they have a criminal record that makes employers afraid of hiring them?  Were they once respectful and dignified citizens who lost everything with a bad business deal? And so on and so forth.

In this country, especially if the current administration has a libertarian point of view, people can go from MacMansions to homeless and uninsured very quickly. No wonder so many women suffer from bag lady syndrome, even the ones who have stable careers.  Even I have have that slight fear that I can be out on the streets, and at my age I cannot go ask Mommy and Daddy for help anymore.

In Brazil you see more beggars, especially children, also in busy intersections. I have to agree it used to be a lot more common in the 70’s and even 80’s, but not as prevalent as before, as the country has developed and bridged the gap between the haves and have nots.

Some of these kids are sent by their parents who watch from afar (or not at all), knowing that motorists will feel sorry for them and be more generous. Therefore, begging becomes very very lucrative for these exploitative parents.

Here in the US there are obviously less beggars around, and mostly in large urban areas.  But still, I don’t know what to do with them.  Of course I can spare one dollar.  Especially if that makes the difference between them eating or not. On the other hand, aren’t there charities doing that? Don’t they have places to go?

Opinions on this are welcome, I am not sure what is the right thing to go, whether to help them or not.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Society | 5 Comments

McCain’s ad about stem cell research

I was quite suprised when I heard on the radio yesterday McCain’s “approved by John McCain” ad supporting stem cell research. I work in the health field. For years I have been flabberghasted that the USA, a major scientific research country, does not allow stem cell research because of some extremely conservative religious groups. The ignorance on the subject is tremendous. During the last elections, the right wingers liked to spew the “why kill innocent babies to help old men” diatribe. What a total manipulation of facts. 

While I consider life starts at conception, that does not mean that life knows what’s going on or has any conscience! Any embryo is a bunch of cells.  There is a cut off when an embryo becomes a fetus and feels pain. Additionally, you are not saving the lives of old men, you are saving the lives of countless living children and adults who can benefit from the advances made in understanding, preventing and curing many diseases.

I  lost a brother at the age of 38 to Diabetes Type I (juvenile diabetes, insulin dependant). He could have been saved, since diabetes is one very destructive disease that can be curbed with stem cell research. Hence, this is a very sensitive subject for me and one I strongly believe in. Bush’s stance on STR was just one more notch of the appaling administration we have been submited to for the last 8 years.

Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised to hear McCain’s ad.  Is he again catering to all the white middle class folks who were going to vote for Hillary and are not religious fanatics? Is he taking a risk by alienating all the red state evangelicals? Why is he going against his VP’s stand on SCR, and furthermore, why on earth did he choose Sarah Palin if he does not share many views with her (including being against abortion in all instances)?

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Whatever happened to the 2 inch heel?

I am tall. I do not wish to be taller than the world when I wear heels. I also wish to walk without feeling I am walking on sticks or that I will lose my balance any time. However, I am not a flat shoes kind of woman (unless I am at the gym, walking at the mall, at work).  When I go out, I like the flair some heels give to a woman. That said, I cannot find any pretty shoes with 2 inch heels anymore. Even 2 1/2. I did find them in Brazil, but store owners here in the MD/VA/DC area either think the population is made of midgets or that all women are traditional soccer moms wearing khaki bermudas.

Whenever I wear my around 2 inch Brazilian shoes here, people stop to compliment me. And anytime I try to wear 3 to 4 inch heels, I know they will be on the back of my closet for good.

They look great at first sight, but they kill your feet.  Try walking with them on uneven sidewalks. Try standing on them an entire night (or dancing).try walking on marble floors. I am always afraid I am going to twist my ankle and wear a cast for a whole month.

 After a certain age, our feet bones shift. Shoes become more unconfortable. Confort and good quality materials like leather become more important.

Shoes used to come from Brazil or Italy. Now they come from China. They are cheaply made. The Italian shoes still come, at a higher price. Shoe importers, please remember women like me who want to look good, wear the latest fashions but do not want to walk on sticks! Thanks!

4-inch red haute high heels from Christian Louboutin

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Fashion | 15 Comments

Going to the gym

As I remember rightly, going to the gym in Brazil was usually a feast for the eyes. People wear EXERCISE clothes. No sweats, no baggy t-shirts, no baggy shorts. The gym I go to in Rockville, MD, well…. let’s just say I read a magazine while I work out sometimes….here are some pics of Brazilian gymwear….the women there want to look good even at the gym. As you can see, in the Brazilian culture the focus is all on the butt 🙂


September 16, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 3 Comments

Atheists on TV

It is very easy to see who is a liberal and who is a conservative, left wing or right wing on TV. Newscasters, commentators and interviewers clearly state their political preferences. When it comes to religion, however, that is less clear.

Journalists learn in school that they have to be impartial. They are news-casters, not news makers. But even though they are outspoken when it comes to politics, they are timid about expressing their lack of religious beliefs. Blatantly advertising your lack of religion hasn’t been popular in this country. 

But this is changing. Since discussing and questioning religion in this country has become more and more acceptable (think Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris who all helped disseminate this debate), journalists have been more openly taking sides. The most outspoken one is Bill Maher. Bill makes no qualms in declaring religion a fantasy. He even made a documentary about it.

Others are less obvious, but they skillfully manage to defend the separation of Church and State (so abused during the Bush administration) and to show that believing in God is optional, and it is ok to be an atheist. These TV personalities are Larry King,  Keith Olberman, Barbara Walters, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, amongst others. I applaud them for slowly coming out of their closets 🙂

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Atheism | 6 Comments

Women against Sarah Palin

Yes, there are many white, middle class and middle aged women who do not want Sarah Palin to be Vice President. Yes, we dreamt of having Hillary as our president, we started to accept her being only VP but now that that scenario is no longer possible in the next 4 years, it does not mean that we will support any woman just because she is a woman.

Joy Behar on The View yesterday (9-10-08) and again on Larry King the same day said exactly what me and tons of people want to say. Bravo Joy, you are a joy to watch 🙂 Watch it on the CNN website:

Sarah Palin represents everything I am against. Her values backtrack several advancements we as a country have made. 

I am also a mother, and I am for strong family values, but I do not think we should base our policies on religion.  Sarah Palin blatantly disregards the separation of Church and State.  Listening to her talk about God is like watching a crazy woman in a mental health Institution who talks to fairies. This is not someone who can be in line for the primary office in this country!

It makes me sad that Republicans make their choices on how to pander to certain groups and how to nab an election instead of who is better prepared.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Politics | 8 Comments

Dentists and Specialization

I had the unpleasant experience to have two root canals treatments done the last few weeks. I went from dentist to dentist.

Medical students spend 4 years in school plus 3 years as residents and come out specialists. By that it means they know (supposedly) everything about a certain part of your body. Plastic surgeons can do noses, breast implants, liposuction, the works.

So why do dentists spend 4 years in dental school and learn only one thing? Why can’t they do crowns AND orthodontics? Why can’t they learn how to clean teeth and do a root canal? Why so specialized?

I don’t remember it being like that in Brazil. If a dentist or a dental student read this, please enlighten me. Thank you!

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 2 Comments